As technological innovation advances apace in an industry populated with solutions-oriented people, many in the packaging converting sector are relatively confident in the short to mid-term prospects, despite persistent gloomy economic headlines. Yet the tail-end of last year brought the news of one of the world’s largest print machinery systems manufacturers, Manroland, going into administration in Germany, the stricken company citing “another dramatic downturn in incoming orders” and ongoing difficulties faced by its customers in obtaining finance.
The New Year began with the equally unwelcome news that Eastman Kodak, once one of the untouchable American corporate behemoths, was attempting to sell off digital patents in order to avoid having to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – albeit caused largely by the drawn-out loss of Kodak’s grip on the photographic market, rather than the company’s seemingly vibrant inkjet printing division.
While printing is not the only aspect of the converting industry, the fact that companies of this stature are struggling and potentially falling, points to underlying issues with the structure of business worldwide. So, at a time such as this, with core, traditional values such as cashflow fundamental to the survival of any business, is it the right time to be worrying about sustainability?
A simple ‘yes’ is the answer from the companies covered in this month’s feature on the topic. There’s a growing emphasis on the sustainability of raw materials, processes and energy supply being built in to systems as a means of achieving permanent cost savings.
In November, leading sustainability consultancy and software specialist PE International announced the release of GaBi 5, a suite of ‘next generation’ software said to “guarantee sustainability optimisation” by comprehensively modelling every element of a product or system, including environmental impact, and offering alternative options for manufacturing, distribution, recyclability, pollution and sustainability. The project is said to have been the drive behind the company’s CEO Michael Betz in the 17 years it took to develop.
At the time of the launch, Betz said: “Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for industry, but is now a ‘must have’ and not just because of an increasingly eco and sustainability-aware population of consumers, but because it offers a real competitive advantage – and allows manufacturers to bask in the warm glow of caring for our planet.”